The Discreet Charm of Bruno Zupan. The artist says, “Leave the doors open.”
Bruno Zupan has created his personal universe in Valldemossa
Ultima Hora, March 5, 2021
Esteban Mercer, Palma, Mallorca
Photos and text by Esteban Mercer
Translation by Jane Zupan
Bruno Zupan was born in Slovenia in 1939. He graduated from the Zagreb Art Institute and decided at the age of 23 to leave home to continue his education in Paris. In 1964 he left Paris for New York where he began a new life. He married and had a daughter, the artist Natasha Zupan. He is, like his daughter, a citizen of the United States but with his heart in Valldemossa where, like Chopin, he has created a personal universe that he will never abandon. He is a Mediterranean who has distanced himself from city life to give free rein to his desire to glorify those small daily pleasures that were also important to Homer, Byron, Sargent, and Chopin: sunlight on a broken column, the perfume of almond trees in bloom, the humid air of spring and the salt smell of the sea. He is part and product of this eternal seasonal flux and wants his paintings to be messages of peace and renovation. He has not been interviewed for ten years in Mallorca due to his love of privacy. Today he would like to share that he is fine…finer than ever, at peace with himself, his family, and his art.
How would you describe yourself? You transcend the artistic personality.
I am Gemini, so I am two people in one. I always have the struggle to push one of my selves away so that I can be at peace. I was born to be an artist and I love what I do. I studied art for seven years in the old Yugoslavia then became an emigrant twice. I got to Paris with one suitcase and then to New York with two. I have found safe harbor here since the ’60s, half of every year because it is where I can paint and live at peace.
Is the island your base?
No, every place I live gives me something. New York, where I have a studio gives me an energy completely different from that of Mallorca or Paris or Venice where I go to paint every year. I am a migrant.
When did you come to Mallorca for the first time?
In 1967. I have traveled around the world, but it is always a pleasure to return here. When you leave your home, the world becomes a place without borders, and you learn to fit in anywhere. In New York, I paint cities at night because I love their lights. Here I paint the marvelous landscapes of Mallorca. I can refresh myself while following my path. The world is big and there is room for everyone although the trends of contemporary art scare me in that they lead to closed doors. What I like about Picasso is that he always left the doors open so he could continue to paint. Now if you paint a black canvas or a blue canvas where are you going from there? If Jackson Pollock were still alive, he could make hundreds of paintings by throwing pots of paint at a canvas. It is like Hegel, the philosopher, said: Leave the doors open.
You are one of the greats. Your work is in important collections.
The Boston Public Library recently acquired one of my paintings. If you visit you will see that it is full of Sargents, Rembrandts, Toulouse Lautrecs – they have a marvelous collection of the most prestigious works. And among them is my big painting of Boston at night seen from the Boston Public Garden. I love painting cities at night because during the day modern cities are grey. There are too many straight lines. If you look out of my studio window in Valldemossa you don’t see any straight lines. Not in nature nor in the ancient architecture of the buildings. The straight line is a masculine obsession. A city at night is a poem, you can imagine who is behind every lighted window. Behind every light is a life.
You paint what you see and what you intuit.
When I paint in Georgia, where my wife is from, watching the light on the moving water of the river I could just as well be in Japan or anywhere else. When I think the world is closing the door to art like now, I think we should go back to the origins of our civilization. Back to Greek art which has survived the ages.
Do you think doors are being closed to art?
Not exactly, but I see some of the winners get there without training, without technique or evidence of the ability to draw, using materials that will not stand the test of time. Works by modern masters fall apart because they are poorly made. Besides, what we take for modern art has been around for a hundred years. Contemporary art is not new. It is old. Déjà vu.
What must be done to come out with something new, and not just in art?
The public looks for sensations, good or bad. But we know that the most beautiful thing in the world is simplicity. Bring them peace. I remember Mallorca when we first came here. There was tremendous interest in the art of painting: Joaquim Mir, Anglada-Camarassa, Sorolla … I feel that all of that passion has been lost by over-publicizing the island itself. Back in the 60’s people thought Miro was worthless, that his paintings were easy. When they saw them selling for millions, they took him seriously. If you value art only by its price that is a mistake because then we will all end up being the product of marketing.
It is impossible to ignore the art market.
What is impossible for a creative person is to expect that everyone will love you. What everyone loves is a gold coin. Right now, I am making a beautiful brochure with my daughter because we will exhibit together in Boston at Galerie d’Orsay. Ok, I still paint subjects from nature. If I paint the sea and the rocky shore, I paint it at the sea with my easel on those rocks. Today, for the critics, that is like a crime- to go outside and paint. I don’t paint for the critics. Painting is like medicine for me- more now that everyone is affected by the pandemic. I want to bring something happy to the world.